I wish I could say this quickly and succinctly, but our cultural miasma won’t let me.
In another of the long list of false dichotomies foisted upon us in the West, we have two bogus images perverting what Jesus taught. One promotes the sacred figure of the noble soldier; the other is the noble martyr. All that’s left is deciding whether the person on the other side of a confrontation is a real enemy or some sacred authority figure.
How do you respond when a policeman pulls you over and you know beyond all doubt he’s wrong? While the official answer is to obsequiously accept what happens and fight it out in court later, there is a place in our culture for a careful resistance to abuse of authority. In the latter case, it’s a sacred duty of another kind; this is what’s behind activism.
What’s wrong with trusting in God, keeping your composure, and waiting to see if God opens a door for something really important in this encounter? Can you not be the shepherd?
One of our biggest problems in Western Christianity is a lack of awareness that our cultural background is radically different from that of the Bible. Westerners value the wrong things and so read a false value system back into the Bible. As I often explain, the most valuable asset anyone has is their kinfolks, either blood kin or covenant family. Any eastern potentate knows instinctively that his treasure is his people. His domain is the people, not the land or possessions — those things are fungible. So if the worst comes and he loses all his wealth and is driven out into the wastelands, it is his people who can gain new wealth and build a new home somewhere else. Take away his people and he would quickly trade everything for a covenant tribe, because nothing matters like people.
While you and I would hardly seek to build ourselves up as eastern potentates in our Western world, we can surely play the shepherd at God’s command. We can accept material losses in favor of making friends, not for ourselves, but for the Kingdom of Heaven. That such a friendship will surely bring us rewards is a part of the larger blessing. This is why most people don’t understand what’s going on with the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-14). The Unjust Steward understood the one thing the Pharisees had forgotten. Their embrace of Hellenized rationalism had made them materialists who worshiped Mammon, versus the steward who understood that friends were far more valuable than property. It didn’t make him a good guy, but it showed him wise in understanding the nature of reality in our fallen world.
Our Western sense of justice arises from a heathen Anglo-Saxon value system, one that is quite amenable to Aristotelian logic because both assume that this world is all there is. Jesus was teaching that His Father owned it all and could end it with a mere flicker of thought. Meanwhile, our souls will outlive this universe, and eternity in His Presence won’t be any fun if we shared nothing of His moral values while we were here. We must understand that Western values were not built from the Bible, but from a deeply perverted heathen background with Bible verses on mere paper pinned to the outside. One gust of God’s spiritual wind blows that away to expose the filth poorly hidden.
Well, that wind is blowing. The storms of tribulation are here and the heathen core will be exposed to God’s wrath. This will not be pleasant. We cannot afford to keep any investment in a damned system. Instead, we should be ready to absorb material costs for the sake of any blessed opportunity to reach out to lost sheep. Don’t play the soldier or fake martyr. The vast majority of our encounters will be with people who don’t understand God’s moral character, including the likes of police officers and whole range of other folks. Every one is a potential friend, or even a potential covenant family member. They need a sample of your peace with God, a shelter in the storm for their souls.
You don’t have to like everyone you meet, but you can pour out some compassion until God transforms them into something you can’t help but love. That’s the way it works when your heart leads through conviction and your reason simply organizes the task.
We don’t need to worry about the money lost to a bogus traffic citation, or the myth of concrete justice against false accusations. Those things are not biblical values. Nor should we tremble in fear of the sword of human government. Nor is it some snickering cynicism about stupid cops. We remain confident in the power of our Father to create situations where His glory will shine. Even if we don’t turn that situation around, something in how we respond plants a seed of glory to harvest later.